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2015年9月15日 (火)

社説:安保転換を問う 集団的自衛権

September 14, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Numerous holes in gov't explanation of right to collective self-defense
社説:安保転換を問う 集団的自衛権


The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is aiming to make sure that security-related bills which would open the way for Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense become law by the end of this week.

Many experts have pointed out that the bills constitute a violation of the war-renouncing Constitution, while the majority of the public is opposed to enacting them. One cannot help but wonder why the government is making haste to enact the proposed legislation.

Prime Minister Abe has emphasized that the legislation is necessary to protect the lives and livelihoods of the people. However, no government officials have provided any explanation during some 200 hours of Diet deliberations that have convinced the public of why Japan cannot defend itself unless the country exercises the right to collective self-defense.

Since the House of Councillors began deliberations on the bills following their passage through the House of Representatives, the government has emphasized its concerns about China's military buildup in addition to the threat posed by North Korea. The government apparently aims to gain public understanding of the need for the security legislation by appealing to the public, which harbors a vague anxiety about the security environment surrounding Japan.


It is true that China and North Korea's recent moves are worrisome. As such, it is only natural that some people sympathize with the government's questions as to whether it is all right for Japan to sit by and do nothing.

However, both legislators, government officials and the public should calmly consider what Japan can do and cannot do to respond to the security situation and what kind of legislation should be developed to make up for shortcomings.

Let's consider how to defend Okinawa Prefecture's Senkaku Islands, which are also claimed by China and Taiwan. The Senkakus are part of Japan's territory. Therefore, Japan would exercise the right to individual self-defense to defend the islands in case of an armed attack. The United States would supposedly defend the islands jointly with Japan under Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.

Therefore, Japan would respond to contingencies on the islands with its own right to individual self-defense and under the Japan-U.S. security arrangement. Such being the case, Japan would not exercise the right to collective self-defense to respond to such contingencies. A country is supposed to exercise the right to collective self-defense to use force to defend another country that has come under armed attack.

The government has cited minesweeping in the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East and guarding U.S. military vessels transporting Japanese nationals as specific examples of operations that Japan would conduct by exercising the right to collective self-defense.

Government officials have less actively mentioned minesweeping in the Strait of Hormuz recently in the face of growing criticism over Japan's exercise of the right to collective self-defense for economic reasons.

The government assumes that Japan would defend U.S. military ships carrying Japanese evacuees mainly in case of an armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula although no geographic restrictions are placed on such operations. Prime Minister Abe places particular importance to such missions as examples of cases in which Japan needs to exercise the right to collective self-defense, which he explained by showing charts and illustrations.

However, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani has stated that whether Japanese nationals are aboard U.S. vessels is not an absolute condition for Japan exercising the right to collective self-defense.

In regard to guarding U.S. military vessels in case of an armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula, discussions were also held on defending U.S. Aegis-equipped vessels engaging in missile defense activities. However, it is unrealistic to assume cases where the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) would need to guard U.S. vessels because such vessels seldom operate individually without forming a fleet with other ships in case of emergency. Government officials' statement wavered over this point.

Serious questions remain as to whether the government needs to open the way for Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense by arbitrarily changing the interpretation of the war-renouncing Constitution -- the interpretation that the government had upheld for more than four decades. The government failed to show clear examples of missions that Japan can conduct by only exercising this right in a manner that can convince the public. Therefore, the government's explanation of the matter has collapsed.

The government's primary purpose of enacting security legislation is to enable the SDF to support U.S. combat operations on a global scale and make the bilateral alliance more reciprocal by allowing Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense. By doing so, Japan is trying to encourage the United States to side with countries in the Asia-Pacific region and use the reinforced Japan-U.S. alliance to counter China's military buildup.

From the beginning, the government placed priority on opening the way for Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense rather than repeating discussions on bills necessary to respond to changes in the security environment surrounding Japan.


Therefore, the contents of the bills do not necessarily match specific changes in the actual security environment, making it appear that government officials' explanations have changed frequently.

It is necessary to review Japan's legislation regarding security to respond to changes in the security environment. For example, it would be a good idea for the ruling and opposition parties to discuss expanding logistical support that the SDF can extend to U.S. forces in case of an armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula under the "emergency-at-periphery" law, while retaining geographical restrictions on such activities and a ban on the provision of ammunition to U.S. forces.

However, specific operations that the government claims that the SDF cannot conduct unless the country exercises the right to collective self-defense apparently can be performed by using the right to individual self-defense in principle.

The three new conditions for using force by exercising the right to collective self-defense, such as a threat to Japan's survival, provided for by the proposed security legislation, are ambiguous, and the executive branch of the government would be allowed to judge whether contingencies meet these conditions in a comprehensive manner.

Specific standards for going ahead with the use of force are the most important matter in SDF operations. Under the bills, however, the executive branch could stretch the interpretation of the standards at its own discretion, and there are fears that Japan's use of force overseas could expand without limits.

If the government-sponsored bills are to be enforced, it could rather cause security risks, and eventually lead to political risks.

The Cabinet's decision in July 2014 to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense is inconsistent with the government's past interpretation of the Constitution as banning Japan from exercising the right to collective self-defense even though the country is granted this right under international law. Although experts have pointed out that the bills are unconstitutional, the government has been unable to provide any convincing explanation of the bills' constitutionality.

If the bills are to be passed into law, the stability of the country's legal system, which is headed by the Constitution, would be destroyed. Enactment of the bills would raise concerns that both the government and the Constitution would lose public trust. It could even destabilize Japan's politics.

The government claims that the enactment of the proposed security legislation would strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance and increase deterrence provided by the alliance. The bills may have such advantages, but there are more risks involving the legislation. Such bills should not be enacted.

毎日新聞 2015年09月13日 02時30分


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